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baltimore, md

Trust Fall (3:11 AM)

Painting by Duy Huynh

I can’t sleep. I started reading Shakespeare (Macbeth) today, and now I’m pondering. This is what always tends to happen. The book can be deep or shallow, and I’ll still ponder. I’ve been told that I wonder off in space when I put down a good book—that the only time that I’ve ever appeared focused on something is when I’m looking at words in a book. Other than that, I’m staring off into space or I’m quiet and reclusive. I’ve had co-workers on numerous occasions ask me, “are you okay?” when I appear to be “more quiet than usual.” I respond with, “yea, I’m fine. Just did some reading before I came in today, that’s all.” They NEVER appear to be satisfied with that answer.

Thank God I was off today.

Either life is becoming more harsh than “good” and the “promising” or we’ve gotten really bad at encouraging. I was telling a friend via FaceTime yesterday that the “hey, look at the bright side” retort is almost never sufficient. 95% of whatever is on the bright side” of things never seems equate or outweigh the Hell that I’m dealing with at that particular time. We should definitely get a grip on this and quick. People are suffering and the best that we can do is offer them whatever insufficient thing on the “bright side.” It sure ain’t helping me…

I’m starting to notice how I’ve been turning to the Spirit a lot more as of late. I think reading the book Spirited: Affirming the Soul and Black Gay/Lesbian Identity this week played a part in it. I haven’t been to church in weeks, and quite frankly, I don’t feel that I need to. But I’d be perfidious if I didn’t acknowledge the small ways in which I recognize when an entity outside of myself is at work. I can’t elucidate it, but it’s there. I’ve gotten myself in a lot of crazy situations, and I know that it had to have been this entity that saved my ass, no other excuse, no other explanation about it. There’s also a peace that comes along with it too. Things that I used to get upset about, doesn’t even phase me anymore. I spent days worried about taking a Math class this upcoming semester. I hate Math. I also worried about the potential of having to take an online course. But today, as I sat in the advisors office, this calm, this peace came over me. I wasn’t worried, I wasn’t anxious. I told myself that whatever happened, would happen and I would power through it.

The math class that I was anxious about, I don’t even have to take. Online courses? Forget about it. Not even necessary.

I’ve seen the spirit show up in ways like this many times before, particularly in my teens. Back then, I would’ve called it Jesus. Now, I’m not so sure. I’m going to go with Spirit. It is Spirit.

Nevertheless, I will keep Spirit in my grasp. This is one of those unique seasons in my life where a lot of doors open at once (I’m grateful for the many doors opening!), and I have to be really discerning as to what move to make. I’m sure the Universe will order every step of mine—nothing is by chance.

Anyways, I say that we let life do its thing. No more partial trust. I’m talking about a full on commitment—a full on promise that we will love unconditionally, do good unto others, be thoughtful, considerate, patient, trustworthy, humble & open to correction!

That we will smile, laugh, hug, kiss, touch, cry, feel. That we will rise alongside the sun with gratefulness & gratitude, and that we will go down with the sun with favor & triumph. Let us look at the moon in awe. Let us abandon greed, jealousy & self hatred.

Love is calling us. She is telling us to step forward, turn around, close our eyes and fall back into her arms, just like a trust fall.

-Sefu, 8/22/18

Fish put us to shame…

I went to the aquarium today—probably the second time that I’ve been there since moving here. A lot of things fascinated me, but I believe that the biggest thing that touched me today was the way that all of those fish seemed to just coexist together. I believe it is the lower floor, where the surrounding tank engulfs you. It was so many fish in there—all different sizes, different colors, different species. All swimming together in this big tank. You would see the biggest shark swimming with the smallest fish—no conflict whatsoever. Then, I began to wonder what in the Hell is our problem as humans. Those fish put humans to shame, the way that they can embrace diversity & differences like that, and we can’t even get past the issue of race, colorism, “gender”, body type, sexual orientation, so on & so forth. This may sound funny, but today I wanted to be a fish.

-Sefu 7/31/18

Only the mayor of Baltimore City could be on video yelling at a child because he wasn’t in school & was wiping windshields for money, then turn around and try to speak so highly of the youth at a rally that they organized and led…. #InsultingIntelligence #StopIt

Happy feelin’s in the air

touching people everywhere

Plenty love and everything

listen to the people sing

R.I.P Muhiyyidin d’Baha!

black lives matter charleston

photo cred: http://www.telesurtv.net

This morning when I clicked on the article, and  I realized that it was you, I clutched my chest to gasp for breath. I didn’t get a chance to meet you in person, but with what I saw from you on Facebook, but it didn’t take much for me to admire & respect you. You were living in Charleston. You were Black. You were an activist for the people and the people only. You weren’t afraid to take risks. You loved unconditionally. You were a disciplined and determined organizer, who produced results.  All of our internet conversations, whether it was on a Facebook status that I posted or one that you posted, were nothing short of productive and fruitful.

Being away from Charleston took a toll on me. I had to see Charleston recuperate after Walter Scott was brutally murdered by Charleston police–something that ate me up inside. Then, shortly thereafter, I had to see Charleston take another blow to the brain, when a white supremacist shot and killed nine churchgoers. Being so far away during the grieving and healing process was enough to almost cripple me.

But, I felt assured and at peace, because you were there. You did everything that you needed to do–in such an uncompromising and unwavering fashion. You were a man of integrity, intelligence and passion. I wasn’t in Charleston in those moments that I felt that I needed to the most–and I didn’t have to. You were there on my behalf, raising Hell and taking a stand for all poor, Black and marginalized people who have been relegated to racism, discrimination and hostility for far too long.

I never got to meet you on THIS side of paradise, but I know that we will meet when it’s all said and done!

Marcus Garvey said, “I shall come and bring with me countless millions of Black slaves who have died in America and the West Indies and by the millions in Africa to aid you in the fight for liberty, freedom, and life.” I truly believe that you will be among those accompanying Garvey when the time comes. Let it be soon!

Rest In Paradise Muhiyyidin d’Baha!

 

autobiography of malcolm x

advertisement for the first edition of The Autobiography of Malcolm X… This looks like a pretty dope edition, would’ve loved to have this version. I’m sure it’s out there somewhere, but likely hella expensive.

;)

Freelance

via http://www.huckmagazine.com

Here’s to 23…

Today is my birthday!

Last year, I did a “here’s to 22” post. My “here’s to 23” post is much simpler, but is just as effective for me as the last…

“This year will be a year of increase, not in what I RECIEVE, but in what I GIVE TO OTHERS.

Here’s to 23. 🎈

You don’t have to like me. 

I like me.

I love me. 😉

This has been on repeat since like August…. That bassline tho…

9:12 AM

Trenton, New Jersey         March,   2002


 

Stephanie walked through the front door of her home, dropped her umbrella on the front porch, took off her damp trench coat, and kicked her shoes off there too. They were soaked and wet and her hair looked miserable. She took a deep breath, perhaps a sigh of relief from such a tiresome day on the job. She shut the door behind her and stumbled over to the kitchen table where a sheet of tablet paper was folded neatly there.

The lights were on.

The TV was on.

It was as if Derrick had never even came home. Or did he? She couldn’t remember. Maybe he didn’t and she just forgot to cut everything off again. Damn. She sat down on the couch, unraveled the paper, squinted and began to read:


 

Stephanie, 

I left early this morning for Los Angeles. This isn’t a vacation though, this is where I will be living from now on. And no, it wasn’t a job offer. And no, I’m not seeing another woman behind your back either. I’ve decided to follow my dreams. I’m sure that you understand, we’ve had this conversation before. I am only reiterating these things, because I don’t want any confusion in the coming hours when you come across this letter. Don’t you remember? We were parked in the Barnes and Noble parking lot? We had bought all those books (most of which were for me– I was never successful in sparking your interest in reading). You must remember. Remember when I told you that I felt that I was being held back? And how I wasn’t living up to my full potential? And how for so many years, out of all of my siblings, I was the subject of ridicule? Everyone else ran full throttle on their dreams, and I stayed behind and got married. I don’t mean to speak of marriage in such a burdensome way, but can we be honest with each other? We’re not successful together, babe. We’re miserable. We never argued, we never raised our voices towards each other. I never thought once of lifting a finger to harm you. But things have gotten much, much worse as time has gone on. Your mood swings have intensified. Don’t you remember how I would always drop you off to work in the morning? I assume that you do. And how we would hug and kiss before you got out of the passenger seat? When was the last time we hugged and kissed? Lately, you’ve just been waving at me, and sometimes I wouldn’t even get that. I’d lean in for a kiss sometimes, and you’d lean away from me and give me this look of confusion as if you forgot who I am and what I mean to you. 

Or what about that time we invited your mother and father over to dinner? We were all sitting at the table watching Family Feud. Your mother asked you what we had planned for our wedding anniversary. You paused and looked away. Your mother asked you again. You looked at her, smiled, and then looked away again. Your mother squinted at you and called your name rather firmly. You turned back towards her and screamed at the top of your lungs, “WHY ARE YOU YELLING AT ME?!”  Your mother told you that she wasn’t even yelling at you, and that she asked you a simple question, which was what is our plans for our anniversary? You paused again and looked down at your plate. I got up out of my seat and wrapped my arms around you as you wept, and told your mother that we had planned on going to New York for a few days. 

Or what about that time that I was at work (this had to have been about 3 months ago), when I got a call from the police telling me that you called them crying because you got lost driving home from work? I had no problem picking you up, but how could you forget that easily where you live? Do remember any of this happening? I’m positive that you do.

I shouldn’t even have to mention that time you left the stove on one Sunday morning in our old apartment when you went to church, and when you came back……. 


 

Stephanie crumbled up the letter and threw it on the floor. She couldn’t take any more of it. She grabbed a handful of hair and sunk to the floor crying uncontrollably. She screamed and cried, screamed and cried. She banged the hard wooden floors with her fists, she raged. She pounded her fist against her forehead over and over again, rebuking herself in the process. She screamed out “Why! Why! Why! Why! Why!”

She was livid. But who was she upset with? Herself? Or Derrick?

Was she as far gone as Derrick made it seem? Surely he had been exaggerating on some of that, right? “How dare HE try to play the victim in all this shit!”, she thought.

She got up off of the floor and ran upstairs to the bedroom. As she expected, all of his belongings were gone. She tried to think of when she saw him last, because here was no way that he could’ve packed everything that quickly. She thought long and hard, but couldn’t remember.

She walked towards the bed and leaned in to see a shiny ring sitting directly on the center of it. She felt her heart drop. In utter frustration and anger, she went into yet another rage, this time knocking over the nightstand, the picture frames on the wall, the bookshelf, the drawers and dressers. The room was a mess. she fell to her knees with her hair in her hands yet again and screamed and wailed in agony and heartbreak. Her eyes landed on the ring on the bed. She got up and grabbed the ring and ran over to the bathroom. She put the ring close to her face and examined the ring, all of the little details. Before she could even begin to weep, she threw the ring in the toilet and flushed it. She thought that she would be satisfied with seeing how quickly the ring would vanish after she presses down on the lever.

She wasn’t satisfied though.

She paced the floors. She walked in every room in the house, upstairs and down. After pacing the floors, she sat down on the bed– HER side of the bed. She wanted so desperately to seal the deal, to permanently erase him from her life– whatever was left of him, that is. If he was really gone, why should she have to live with anything that would remind her of him? If he walked out so easily on her, she wanted to delete his entire existence also.

She had thought of flushing down her wedding ring too of course, but she couldn’t remember where she had put it last.

 

 

4:15 AM

 

Eyes open. A long stretch. A glance at the clock.

4:15 AM.

She sits up, peel back the layers upon layers of covers and sets her feet on the wooden floors. She scratches her head, as if to make sure that she is indeed awake, and makes her way to the kitchen.

Fear. Misery. Loneliness. Sickness. 

She opens up the refrigerator door and peers in. She’s got one last Seagram’s left. Flavored beer always tastes the best at this time of the morning. It’s the Strawberry Daiquiri one. She cracks it open (using the hem of her nightgown for some assistance) and takes a long gulp…

Sadness. Paranoia. Bankruptcy. Anxiety. 

She suddenly stumbles back and spits the drink out of her mouth. The beer bottle escapes her grip, but she recovers it before it shattered in a million pieces on the floor. She walks backwards until she gets to he sink basin and spins around, looking out of the window. It’s a full moon out. A gentle breeze. She can hear some pigeons cooing somewhere in the trees. This brings her peace almost instantly, and as a result, finally makes her way to find the mop to clean the spill.

She could see one big moon, but really wanted to see the millions of little stars. There were none tonight…

Anger. Confusion. Heartbreak. Betrayal.

When she’s finished, she grabs an apple and a knife and some napkins. She drags herself back into bed, grabs her journal from the nightstand beside her and she writes for a little. She doesn’t want to read. Tonight isn’t a night to read words belonging to others, but to have her words read for once. With the knife, she chips away at the apple; she never ever bit directly into an apple. The napkin of course, was for her tears. She cried tears of longing, tears of suffering, tears of misunderstanding. It wasn’t a wail, but it was a moan, a moan of dissatisfaction… surely, she hoped that one of the stars would come from hiding and pay her a little visit tonight…

Shame. Torment. Deception. Depression. 

But none ever came.

The Disconnect

The days blended in altogether for Tiffany, because her to-do list was always the same. Wake up, take a shower, get dressed, feed her two children, get them dressed, take them to school, go to work at 9, clock out at 6, pick up the children, then head to the hospital to see her Mama. Her mother has been in the hospital for 4 weeks now, as she’s been battling pancreatic cancer. After two unsuccessful surgeries, Tiffany decided to keep her mother in the hospital; she felt that the kids didn’t need to see such a gruesome scene. I mean, all they’ve ever seen was their Grandmama happy. All they’ve ever seen is their Grandmama strong. All they’ve ever seen is their Grandmama being the strong Black woman that she was, cooking for them, washing their clothes and giving them a place to stay at night, while their mother got drunk and partied all night long.  Besides, they’d always be able to visit whenever their mother deemed it appropriate to bring them by the hospital. Their father had died in a car accident while in route to the hospital while Tiffany was in labor— all they had were pictures and an obituary.

The role of the mother, and the role of the grandmother became severely distorted within the household. It had gotten so bad, that they eventually started calling their Grandmama, Mama. And when both their Grandmama and their ‘actual’ Mama would turn their heads in their direction, they would correct themselves by saying, “Sorry, we meant to call Grandmama.” For all they knew, the only mother that they had was the one who had actually attended their play performances. The one who signed off on their permission slips for their school field trips. The one who make sure that their Christmas was the best Christmas yet. The one who always baked cupcakes for their birthdays, and would make just enough for all of their classmates to partake in the festivities.  It was devastating to think about for Tiffany. “Two kids, one son and one daughter. Twins. Both of ’em are 9 years old and they don’t even know how to call their mama correctly.” It became too much to think about, so she’d tuck that in the back of her head and think on other matters.

But as much as she tried to tuck those thoughts in the back of her head, the would always return like a leg cramp, after many attempts at finding a position that would alleviate the pain. What was so natural for her mother, was so arduous for her. The kids just didn’t seem to connect with her the way that they connected with her mother. They didn’t laugh while they were being tickled by their grandmother the same way that they would laugh when their mother tickled them. In the car headed to work, Tiffany recalled how deeply enthralled their laughter were when they were being ticked by their grandmother, and when she tried to join in on the fun, they would look at her as if she’d lost her mind. She just couldn’t connect, and with that brought on jealousy and utter anguish. “What does Mama have that I don’t have?!”, she’d wonder. “What is it about her that they love so much?” “Don’t they love me too?”

Tiffany clocked out of work, picked up Zion and Alainah from school and headed for the hospital. THIS part of the day was the worst for her, because she absolutely hated the smell of hospitals. To her it always smelled like… like death. Like hopelessness and despair, dressed up as something else. Hospitals to her are the equivalence of a bouncy house on the outside, with corpses and bones on the inside. How could something so big and immaculate like a hospital be so dark and lowkey sinister on the inside? She took the elevator to the 8th floor and knocked before entering. She pulled back the curtains and sat in the chair beside the bed. The kids stood on the opposite side of the bed, observing their Grandmama’s slow, deep breaths while she beautifully slumbered. The room was rather small with dim lighting, and the window in the room permitted visitors to see a slab of brick wall–no clouds, no skyline, nothing but brick. She pondered on the negative effects of limited healthcare perks, and how where they place you and how they treat you, all depends on the kind of healthcare that you possess. She’d wished that she could’ve done more to secure a more decent room, but Mama had stated over and over that she was content with the room that she had, and that she was blessed to even have a room to be in.

“Mama, is Grandmama going to be alright?”, Zion asked. He looked on with a face that shared both curiosity and concern for her, and he stroked her leg as if somehow he could send healing power into her. “She’ll be A-Okay”, Tiffany replied with a smile. One thing that she knew about her children, was that they were great at detecting false hope or lies. So when she said it, she smiled really, really hard in hopes that they would find sincerity in her promise. Grandmama made some slow movements, and suddenly, her eyes popped open. She had a few seconds of confusion, but once her eyes focused, she smiled and said with delight, “Oh yes!, I knew my babies would come to see me.” Zion and Alainah both yelled “GRANDMAMA!” in unison, and hugged her tightly. She couldn’t move her arms, so she just took the hug that they gave her and smiled a big ‘ole smile. Her wrinkles on her Hershey, brown skin were emphasized, but Tiffany thought that she looked good anyways, despite her predicament.

“Grandmama, we thought about you all day”, Alainah said with a smile. “Yea, Grandmama, and we even told our teachers about you too”, Zion said. Grandmama, still smiling, replied, “Oh yea? Well, what did you tell them about me?”, she asked in response, looking rather nervous, as children are notorious for saying outlandish, embarrassing things. “We told them that you’re the best mother in the world”, Zion said, before then correcting himself by saying, “I mean Grandmama.” Tiffany leaned back in the chair and pressed her two lips together, as if to show some sort of expression of frustration or agitation.

Suddenly, there was a knock on the door. A doctor stepped in. He was a tall, handsome man, with skin the color of milk chocolate covered almonds, neatly kept dreadlocks that flowed down to his shoulders. He wore clear, rimless spectacles, something like the young looking ones that the college art hipsters like to wear. Tiffany was impressed with his size and his body type. He wasn’t muscular at all, and that was fine. She had always felt that muscular men were overrated, and how so many men today fought too hard to try to mimic those bodies just for the sake of mimicking. He smiled and said, “Good evening, Ms. Tiffany. I see that you brought the kids today.” He smiled, turned to the children and said, “I’m Doctor Hansberry. What are yall’s name?” Zion and Alainah both said their name, and he said, “you both have nice names! Zion and Alainah.” He said their names in such a way that caused them both to smile. He was a natural with children, and Tiffany could easily observe that. They smiled at him and laughed with him in similar ways that they laughed and smiled with their Grandmama. This made Tiffany even more jealous and concerned.

“HOW could they feel so comfortable with a doctor, a damn STRANGER that they JUST met not even 10 minutes ago, and yet they act so disengaged with their own MOTHER!”, she thought to herself. She snapped out of her thoughts when she heard Zion say, “We know Mama will be okay”, with a big grin. Alainah followed it up with, “He meant to say Grandmama.”

Dr. Hansberry smiled. Grandmama smiled. Zion smiled. Alainah smiled.

Tiffany did not.

—— To Be Continued——

 

 

 

2:12 AM

I can’t sleep, because I slept earlier today. All day. I have to be up in about 4 hours, which isn’t really a problem for me, because I’m used to it by now. But with the time allotted, I will type. Besides, it’s been a month since I last typed anything anyways.

Lately, I’ve been thinking [heavily] on a lot of things, but mainly loneliness and standing out. I’ve been thinking about purpose and meanings. Why are we here? What are we to do here? We’ve been given this task of “standing out” and “making a mark”. But what does that even mean? We all have passions, dreams, goals and talents. But, sometimes it seems like we are just in a long line, waiting for our name to be called. Waiting for that next “break”. Waiting for that “call up.” Waiting to “blow up.” And in the midst of thousands and thousands of people waiting in that same exact “line” as we are, we are given the challenge of standing out— somehow, some way, we have to be the only [or one of the few] noticeable ones in that line. Somehow, some way, we’ve got to prove that what we have is better or more significant than what the others have. We are thousands and thousands of fish in one big pond, and somehow, we’ve got to find a way to be the odd fish out.

In the middle of all of this, can come loneliness, frustration, confusion, heartache, depression and misery. So, I withdraw my game pieces from the playing board. I won’t play this game anymore. I don’t want to stand out just to stand out, and I don’t want to blend in either. So, I’ll just be all that I can be to the best of my ability.

I’ll just be all that I can be to the best of my ability.

I’ll take life by the horns and ride until I can’t ride anymore. I’ll go for late night walks and late night bike rides. I’ll read all of the books that I desire. I’ll love and love unconditionally. I’ll take my journal with me everywhere I go, and write for the hell of it. I’ll indulge quite heavily on Pumpkin Spice Latte’s, Cliff Bars, fruits, oatmeal and water. I’ll smile for no reason, cry without fear of embarrassment, and physically embrace whomever, womyn or men. I’ll dance too.

Scary is the day that we get so caught up with being the “different” fish in the sea, that we don’t even see the fishing net that is slowly creeping up behind us, aiming to capture us all.

“What is this generation to do?” -Mumia Abu-Jamal, Writing On The Wall

-@ShaiVaughnC

 

A Child’s Hustle 

“…they are not so much as lost as they are mislaid, discarded by this increasingly racist system that undermines their inherent worth.” -Mumia Abu-Jamal

Much love to the children today standing on the corner of Eastern & Linwood Avenues today, selling ice cold bottles of water for a dollar. They demonstrated to me the true meaning of hope & of persistence. I give it to them, because today ain’t no joke! It’s hot out here. They had to have been under the age of 12, about four of them total. They were all melanated, with smiles that could almost cure any disease. They were enthusiastic, overjoyed & determine to sell those waters. I didn’t get to ask them what they were selling the waters for, but I was excited for them nonetheless, and said, “what the hell” and gave ’em $2 for one bottle. Oh, the exuberant looks on their faces!

It’s these kids that we should be advocating with. It is these kids that we should be defending and encouraging and uplifting. The potential is expansive & explosive. The drive is evident & illuminating. The desire is aggressive & passionate. Those kids out there, they have it. We owe them the world.

I am tired of talking negatively about our children. Mumia Abu-Jamal says, “If they are lost, then find them.” And I have. They are on the football field playing football with a ball that’s half deflated, but could care less, as long as it serves it purpose. They are on the sidewalk riding their bikes, with tires that are half deflated, a chain that’s severely rusted and brakes that fail them with loud screeches & delayed reactions. But in spite of, they ride. They are on the basketball court, with the court being their backyard with a rim without a net (my personal favorite way to play basketball), but nonetheless, they play. They are in the library, reading books that are duck taped together with pages missing, yet still they read.

We’ve found the children.

The question is, what are we going to do with them? How will we invest in them?

I love a child’s hustle. But let’s not exploit them, let’s challenge them. Let’s build them up. And let’s boost their confidence. For they are all “future revolutionaries, with the historic power to transform our full realities.”

-@ShaiVaughnC

 

The Atmosphere is Shifting

Last night while walking down North Avenue towards The Crown, I saw the doors of a church opened with some folks congregating on the outside. They looked to be in their teens, early twenties maybe. There was a sweet melody humming inside. I instinctually wanted to continue walking, but the music was penetrating. I stopped my feet and made eye contact with one of the ladies standing on the steps. Before I could even ask her what was going on, she informed me that they were having midnight worship service, [something that happens every weekend], and that I could go in and check it out if I wanted to. I marched up the stairs and stood in the doorway of the sanctuary, I didn’t really have any intentions on staying. The sanctuary was BEAUTIFUL. It gave me a very old fashion vibe, somewhat gothic with a sprinkle of millennial and Christmas. There were Christmas lights [single colored] that ran up and down the steeples, but it didn’t interfere with the “gothic”/old aesthetic. There were a few people inside of the church, a few Black, a few white, a few others. Some had their hands raised and were completely into the worship music. The band was amazing too. There was a drummer, a pianist and I believe one or two singers. I don’t remember what the song was called and I didn’t even stay in there for more than 3 minutes. But at one point, they were singing something along the lines of what sounded like, “The atmosphere is shifting.” They repeated it over and over again, each time getting louder and louder, more vibrant and more intentional in driving home that point. “The atmosphere is shifting.”

It reminded me of my days worshipping back in South Carolina. It reminded me of working those summer camps with LifeWay Christian Resources, CentriKid and M-Fuge. It reminded me of a church that I attended that was just in my backyard, a millennial kind of church that met early Sunday mornings, but had to tear things down because the building belonged to an older congregation, and they simply weren’t having all of those lights and loud drums and guitar equipment in their services. I almost couldn’t even move. It was just too powerful of a moment.

But, I left encouraged! Coming off of the events that transpired in Charlottesville, Virginia and the clear forewarnings of a potential race war, I needed to hear/see something to lift my spirits. Those words that were sung still vibrate in the back of my mind even now. The atmosphere is shifting towards awareness, higher consciousness and a deeper understanding of life. “The atmosphere is shifting.” “The atmosphere is shifting.” “The atmosphere is shifting.” “The atmosphere is shifting.”

Indeed! Let it be so. The atmosphere is shifting.

Miracles 

“Not of a god of thunder, 

a god of silk, 

a god of the rich 

did the carpenter speak, 

but a God of compassion, 

of peace, of a day brighter

than today; 

a God whose miracles still work 

in the slave pens and shacks, 

in the projects,

in the hellish daily life of the poor 

and the oppressed—

not miracles 

like walking on waves, 

transforming water into wine, 

but miracles of love arising 

in hearts where it seems least 

likely to flourish–

here and there 

in the barrios and the favelas, 

among those who have least, 

beat hearts of hope, 

fly sparks of Overcoming.”

It Sure Feels Like It Sometime

I picked up a pizza dough to prepare to make a pizza. The customers (3 white men) were standing ahead of me, having a conversation. They were in deep conversation, because they didn’t even see me standing with the dough in my hand, waiting to hear what kind of pizza they planned on ordering.  Eventually, one of the three guys saw me waiting and said to the others, “hey hold up, I think that boy right there is ready for us to order.” 

Boy? Boy? BOY? Did this man really just call ME a boy? I wasn’t sure if I was hearing what I was hearing, so I let it go. When I had finished making their pizzas and they had left, I went to a co-worker and told her that I think that I had just been called a boy. She asked me, “what did you tell him?” I replied, “I didn’t say anything, because I wasn’t sure if that’s what he had said, and I didn’t want to cause a scene for nothin”. She said, “okay. ‘Cause you don’t ever call no Black man no boy.” I said, “I know that’s right! If I was certain that that’s what he had called me, I would have told him that I’m a man and not no boy. I ain’t picking nobody’s cotton and I ain’t working on nobody’s plantation.” 

She said, “it sure feels like it sometime.” I said, “yea, say so. It sure feels like it sometime.” 

It sure feels like it sometime. 

In the words of Mumia Abu-Jamal…

“The earth is but one great ball. The borders, the barriers, the cages, the cells, the prisons of our lives, all originate in the false imagination of the minds of men.”

-Mumia Abu-Jamal, Live From Death Row, pg. 52

The Departure

November 20, 2014. Charleston, South Carolina.  I was in the living room with all of my bags packed. Suitcase, backpack, laundry basket and another basket with just books in it. I was ready to go. At this point, we wait. We were waiting on my new boss to arrive to come and pick me up. I was getting ready to move to Baltimore. I alternated between looking out of the window to see when he would be pulling up in the driveway and looking at my mother and my grandmother who waited alongside me to attempt to read their body language. I had told them just last month of my decision to move away, but in my mind  I don’t feel that it went well. Truth be told, they weren’t content with the fact that I was leaving, and never would be content until they came up to visit and see for themselves that I was alright.

I was doing all of this at 19. I had done one year of college, and had decided not to register for classes for my second year, because I knew that I would be moving. I was working at Chick Fil A, and had about $350 to my name. That’s it. 19 years old, $350 to my name and a bunch of books. No car, no real house [I would stay in a little room in the back of a church for a year], and a load of uncertainties. But I was ready. They [my mother and my grandmother] knew that I was ready. I had visited just last month for a weekend, and I knew that it was time. I didn’t know that the big move would happen the very next month, and I certainly didn’t think that the big move would happen just before Thanksgiving. My new boss finally showed up. He exchanged words with my grandmother and my mother, they laughed a little, said some reassuring words to each other, helped me load up the car, hugged, hugged and hugged, [they] shed a few tears, and I hopped in the car and I left.

Today, August 5, 2017. Baltimore, Maryland. Bun Shop. Here I am, sitting on a brand new couch in a coffeehouse, beside a cup of water and a Vietnamese iced coffee. In my lap is a laptop masked with a bunch of political stickers. Life is grand. When I initially got here, I didn’t think that I would last this long, because I was low in cash and I had frequent regrets about the whole thing. “Did I make the right decision? Why did I do this again? Why didn’t anyone talk me out of this? I probably should stayed in South Carolina.” But, after a few months of struggling, things started to work. I landed a job, I learned how to get around the city and I made bonds and connections. I made mistakes, I stumbled and even fell. But things just kept on working out for me. I credit the most high, honestly. I’m still here, 3 years later.

5 years ago, I would’ve thought that you were insane if you told me that I would be where I am today.

I miss Charleston, much more than I thought. I miss my little sister Ty’nasia. I miss my little brother, Diante’. I miss my mother and my grandmother, my aunts and my uncles and my cousins. I miss those whom I have spent some very, very fun and exciting times with at Chick Fil A. Shoutout to the hard workers at Chick Fil A, Dee, Libby and Ms. Patty, who I knew I could always count on, to talk God with me and to play gospel music on her radio while we worked. I miss y’all like hell. I miss Ms. Lisa and “Good ole Mr. Don”, who would hook me up with a hot cup of coffee and some good food after church on Sundays. I miss Bandit [one of their many dogs] and even Ashley [one of their dogs who is both blind and deaf] too.

See y’all soon.

I don’t even know why I’m typing this. Maybe it’s because somebody needs to read this. Maybe somebody needs to be inspired. Maybe someone needs to make a big jump, a big leap and they need the encouragement to do so. Maybe someone is hell bent on quitting their job, but they don’t know what the future will hold for them once they do it. Maybe someone out there is about to start school, and they fear that their major, although it’s what they love and it’s what they’re passionate about, won’t make them any money. Maybe somebody has been dying to make that big move, and whether it be from one city to another or from one state to another, they need to overcome some of that fear or anxiety. This is for you.

Do it. Go for it. Take that leap of faith. And if it works out, then great. If it doesn’t, there’s always redemption and second chances. Passion is like a bird leaving it’s nest for the very first time. Either you’re gonna fly, or you’re gonna fall. But you won’t ever know until you test your wing’s durability.

For the sake of struggle, for the sake of perseverance, for the sake of love and for passion, for the sake of dreaming, for the sake of walking boldly in seemingly absurd decisions, for the sake of uniqueness, for the sake of individuality, for the sake of life—only one of it, I say….

GO.

 

 

In the words of John Edgar Wideman…

“Perhaps one measure of humanity is our persistence in the business of attempting to construct a meaningful life in spite of the sentence of death hanging over our heads every instant of our time on earth. Although we can’t avoid our inevitable mortality, we don’t need to cower in a corner, waiting for annihilation. Neither should we allow the seemingly overwhelming evil news of the day to freeze us in our tracks, nor let it become an excuse for doing nothing, for denial and avoidance, for hiding behind imaginary walls and pretending nothing can harm us. Alternatives exist. Struggle exists. Struggle to connect, to imagine ourselves better. To imagine a better world. To take responsibility step by step, day by day, for changing the little things we can control, refusing to accept the large things that appear out of our control.”

-John Edgar Wideman, Live From Death Row, pg. xxv

Linda Morse, on a witness stand during a trial on December 16, 1969 said: 

“The more that I see the horrors that are perpetrated by this government, the more that I read about things like troop trains full of nerve gas traveling across the country where one accident could wipe out thousands and thousands of people, the more that I see things like companies just pouring waste into lakes and into rivers and just destroying them, the more I see things like the oil fields in the ocean off Santa Barbara coast where the Secretary of the Inferior and the oil companies got together and agreed to continue producing oil from the offshore oil fields and ruined a whole section of the coast, the more that I see things like an educational system which teaches black people and Puerto Rican people and Mexican-Americans that they’re only fit to be domestics and dishwashers, if that, the more that I see a system that teaches middle-class whites like me that we are supposed to be technological brains to continue producing CBW [chemical and biological] warfare, to continue working on computers and things like that to learn how to kill people better, to learn how to control people better, yes, the more I want to see that system torn down and replaced by a totally different one—-one that cares about people learning; that cares about children being fed breakfast before going to school; one that cares about people learning real things in school; one that cares about people going to college for free; one that cares about people living adult lives that are responsible, fulfilled adult lives, not just drudgery, day after day going to a job; one that gives people a chance to express themselves artistically and politically and religiously and philosophically. That is the kind of system I want to see in its stead.” 

-Linda Morse, Conspiracy in the Streets: The Extraordinary Trial of the Chicago Eight, p. 152 

Her Spirit Lives On

korryn gaines

I was sitting in the living room watching the news when I heard about what had happened to Korryn Gaines. At the time, I didn’t know all of the details, [much like everyone else], and made quick assumptions. I assumed that the individual having the standoff with police was a white man who they would describe as “mentally disturbed”, “unhinged” or “suicidal”. I assumed this “white man” was a college student or something. I assumed that maybe the “white man” had just been divorced or broken up with or something. I thought that this “white man” was maybe even in severe debt, and knew no other way out. But then, I learned more.

This WASN’T a suicidal, mentally disturbed white man. This was a Black woman, a 23-year-old Black woman at that. And the police WASN’T there to stop her from killing herself, but was there TO kill her. I had learned that she was harassed constantly by Baltimore County Police officers in Randallstown, Maryland. I had learned that she had a pending case with the Baltimore County Police Department, and that she was suing them for an altercation pertaining to the rights and ownership of her vehicle. I had learned that there was already some “sabotage” and “fabricating” of evidence happening with some paperwork that she needed to have in order to defend herself in court. I also learned that she had a history with these same officers who harassed her non-stop.

I had learned that they had come to “issue a warrant for a court date that she had failed to appear to” [yea, okay], and Korryn Gaines felt that she had an obligation to protect her then 5-year-old son.

But, what I remember the MOST about hearing about Korryn Gaines’s death, was all of the Black men and women on my timeline who didn’t even stand up for her. I remember reading things like, “she deserved to die”.

“She just wanted to be a martyr for a movement.”

“She dragged her innocent 5-year-old son into something that had nothing to do with him.”

“She traumatized that boy.”

“If the officer says to do something, you do it.”

“She had a gun.”

“She was crazy.”

Which tells me that the theory of armed resistance and the actual practice of armed resistance are two different things in the eyes of SOME people. Armed resistance in pictures— pictures like the one with Malcolm X peeping out of his window sill with a rifle in his hand, or pictures like the ones with 30 members of the Black Panther Party who walked into the California State Capitol building in May of 1967 toting guns and rifles— come off as more “badass”, “Black Powerish” and “radical”, than that of a young Black woman who actually PRACTICED the theory of armed resistance and furthermore felt the need to defend herself from terrorists in badges who came to invade her home.

Regardless if you believe that armed resistance is the way to go or not, the fact remains that A LOT of the leaders that we idolize and look up to, partook in armed resistance in some form or fashion.

FACTS. NOT EVEN DEBATABLE.

But, that’s another post for another time. In this post, I would rather just remember Korryn Gaines, and to wish her family well in all of their pursuits. Korryn Gaines was a freedom fighter, a warrior, and a fearless Black mother. Let’s not forget this. Yes, she was a revolutionary. But, she was a mother FIRST. And with the huge task of being a mother or for shepherding a child, I can only imagine the great lengths that one can/will go in order to defend her flock. Korryn Gaines was willing to go to the very ends of the Earth to make sure that her child was safe.

I wonder how many mothers would go as far as to arm themselves, if it meant that they and their children would be safe from all forms of terror, even if it meant “law enforcement?”

Mumia Abu-Jamal said in his book, All Things Censored, “For the spirit of resistance, is in essence, the spirit of love.” I firmly believe that Korryn Gaines resisted and petitioned the state at every turn each and everyday, because of the love that she had for her family.

Mumia Abu-Jamal also said in an interview back in March 1996, “Don’t cry for me, don’t mourn for me. Organize.” I feel that Korryn’s spirit is urging us to organize, organize, organize. That is what she would be doing had she not been murdered by the state. Let’s keep the spirit strong!

“I’ll live on forever, my nigga. Forever.” -Korryn Gaines

Her spirit lives on.

We Speak Louder

 

city hall baltimore.jpg

Photo cred: The International Business times

This past Tuesday was a day to remember for the people of Baltimore City. A city council meeting [that was set up for the purpose of discussing a one year mandatory minimum sentencing for those who carry a gun in a public space], was interrupted, shut down and demolished. Why was it interrupted? Why did the people become so upset during the “hearing”? It was because our voices were muted, and we couldn’t take any more of the lies, deceit and confusion. Our voices were suppressed for two and a half hours, as we waited patiently to be heard. We had heard from senators and delegates, chairs of this committee, and chairs of that committee. We had to listen to every single member of the judiciary and legislative investigations committee and then some. Eventually, we became frustrated and we let them know what people power looks like. The judiciary and legislative investigations committee at City Hall was put on notice, and this isn’t the beginning…. but it is also nowhere near the end.

Baltimore, we have a problem. This problem goes beyond the bill that was written. This problem goes beyond the city council members. This problem goes beyond City Hall in general. This problem even goes beyond the Baltimore City Police Department. This problem is a national problem, and it is that Black people are not supposed to scream when they are in pain. It is that Black people are not supposed to show some sort of emotion when legislation is passed [or even thought about], that we know for certain hurt our communities. It is that Black people are supposed to “just bend over and take it.”

Writer, journalist and radio broadcaster Mumia Abu-Jamal says so eloquently, “Do you see law and order? There is nothing but disorder, and instead of law there is the illusion of security. It is an illusion because it is built on a long history of injustices: racism, criminality, and the genocide of millions. Many people say it is insane to resist the system, but actually, it is insane not to.” He also said, “Politics is the art of making the people believe that they are in power, when in fact, they have none.” Taking these two quotes into account, one should feel empowered, to stand up, petition our government and have our voices heard.

City Hall puts up a good front when people who have the power, don’t exercise their power. If nobody with the REAL power speaks out and puts them in check, OF COURSE they are going to exercise their fake power. And they’ll do so with no intention of stopping.

No more attending City Council “hearings” where the people [many of which took off of work, school, etc. just to attend the meeting] are forced to wait hours on hours before we can be heard. No more having to “wait our turn”, when in reality if we don’t speak up, we won’t have a turn. No more political correctness. No more respectability politics. No more no more no more!

When we are silenced, we speak louder. When we are ignored, we speak louder. We speak louder.

There was a few arrests in response to the way that we [finally] decided to take charge, and they are all faced with various charges, so I will not go into detail about the specific happenings. But I WILL say that I commend them for standing up, showing up and showing out for those who couldn’t be physically be there. At times, it can feel discouraging. It can feel like nothing is working, and that we’re just running in circles. But we need to remember that our shouts echo, our stomping carries weight, and our resistance bears value. We may not see it NOW, but if we continue and if we persist, I believe that demons will tremble and strongholds will be released.

Now, regardless if the results of the hearing were predetermined before we arrived, [which I firmly believe], we STILL made it known that we were not playing with them. There is ALWAYS something to say, there is ALWAYS a point that needs to be made. Some people who attended the meeting weren’t even there for the bill per say, but were there to let their councilmembers know that if they keep up, they’ll be removed. To me, it’s not even about WHY you are there, or how on topic you are. If it is indeed the people’s building that we have paid for with our tax dollars, then we need to start controlling the pace and direction of these meetings!

The bill has been altered so much since we first heard about it, that I am convinced that they are all at the drawing board now trying to figure out what to do next. Or maybe not. But regardless, we will be right there waiting and watching, as I know [and I’m sure you do too] that this thing is far from over.

Forward together, not one step back! In solidarity.

@ShaiVaughnC

WBAL Journalist Jayne Miller’s video of the initial incident provoked by Baltimore Police.

 

A Twitter thread from Baltimore Bloc Member discussing the actions of the chair of the Judiciary and Legistlative Investigations committee, Eric Costello.

A video via Twitter of Baltimore Police Sgt. Thompson who is responsible for wrongfully arresting protestors well within their first amendment rights. He is also being sued for illegally arresting 65 people [at one time] last July.

love & refuge

I approached her after church, but that was only after I went back & forth on it about a hundred times during the service. I sat near the back, I was new & I hadn’t been going there a month yet. Still needed to feel my way through. She sat towards the middle. She had an aisle seat. She had on all Black. Black shoes, Black skinny jeans, a Black buttoned down collared shirt with a Black leather jacket. Black rimmed spectacles. Her jet-Black hair pinned down, I couldn’t tell whether or not it was long or short. Didn’t matter. I’d take her bald. My eyes were fixed on her the entire time, watching her leap up & down to all of the songs, flailing her hands around like tree branches in a windstorm. When she wasn’t doing that, she teetered back & forth like a seesaw. She was digging the music, all the while I was digging her. I liked how free she was. She wasn’t bound by anything & she didn’t care how she was perceived by the church or maybe even the world. I wanted that freedom. I wanted that level of liberation for myself. I knew I always had it, but I kept it bottled up inside. She made me wanna let loose with her. 

Dismissal. I got my things & acted like I was leaving, but would kind-of stall, as if I was waiting on somebody to walk out the door with me. I could pull it off well, because everybody was filing out of the door. Had to have been over 60 of us. I looked back & noticed that she was talking to somebody. So, I walked over to her from behind [where she couldn’t see me] & I tapped her on the shoulder. She swung around super fast, you would’ve thought I smacked her butt. I stuttered, but I managed spill out, “Can I talk to you for a minute?” She looked back at me with her widened eyes bursting through her lenses & said, “Yea.” She excused herself from whoever she was talking to & I apologized for interrupting the conversation.

I said, “Hey, I’m a little nervous, but I just wanted to say that you inspire me.” I don’t know where in the Hell that came from. I mean, it was true & all, but I didn’t mean to sound so dorky about it. I wanted to sound like a 22-year-old man, but I ended up sounding like a 13-year-old boy. She chuckled, leaned in close to me & said [very slowly], “Awww! That’s so sweeeet! Wooooow!” I was trying to figure out if that was some sort of speech impediment, that’s how slow she was talking. Then she asked, “You got a Facebook?” I lied & said no. I can’t be showing people I just met my Facebook. It ain’t nothing bad on there, I’m just funny like that. I said, “But I got an Instagram?” She smiled real hard & said, “Me too! Let me look me up on your page.” I gave her my phone & she found herself. Boom. We Instagram buddies now.

& from there, it’s history. We have been best friends ever since. I haven’t found anybody who truly “get’s me” like she does. We are EXACTLY alike in so many ways, that we have prayed & fasted to God to reveal to us whether or not we are destined to be together. She’s 27 & although we are close friends today, we never really shot down the idea of us being a “thing.” But I’m content with our friendship & I know that she is too. I won’t put her name out there, but I know she’s reading this. I love you, girl. You’re my joy in sorrow & my hope for tomorrow. In my loneliness, you show up. In my sadness, you cheer me up. & I’ll never, ever forget you, no matter where life takes us both. In you, I find love & refuge. You mean the world to me, girl. My joy in pain. My comrade. My home girl. My everything.

🌹

 

Here’s to 22…

Here’s to 22.

Joy, peace, kindness, love and mercy.

Here’s to 22.

Redemption, acceptance, patience, forgiveness.

Here’s to 22.

Faithfulness, attentiveness, commitment, trust.

Here’s to 22.

Books, coffee, perseverance, justice.

Here’s to 22.

Unity, stability, ability, nobility.

Here’s to 22.

Radical, Black, solidarity.

Here’s to 22.

Resistance, resistance, resistance.

 

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